From the Maester’s Desk is a weekly column about the book-to-show adaptations of the characters, world and other elements from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books. Apart from analyzing the differences between the two mediums, it offers bits of trivia, speculation and educated guesses about the future of the story in both the books and the TV show. The article contains spoilers from ASOIAF.
“I once told Bronn that if I ever saw you again I’d cut you in half.”
“It’ll take you a while with a sparring sword.”
When the Lannister brothers met in last Sunday’s episode, “Eastwatch”, I was half-expecting Tyrion to reply the way he did when Joffrey made that very same threat in the “Blackwater” episode from Season 2.
“That would make me the quarter-man. Just doesn’t have the same ring to it.”
It wasn’t a happy family reunion, to say the least, though the reasoning for these characters to be on opposing sides is quite different to the source material.
The way the TV show has been handling the Tyrion character is an ever-present topic of discussion for many book fans. Some of them argue Show!Tyrion is a whitewashed version of its book counterpart, and in a way they’re right.
It’s no accident that Tyrion became one of the most beloved characters from Game of Thrones. He’s highly quotable because of his amazing lines, he has an interesting arc and is one of the few characters who can be considered an overall “good guy”, since he has never done anything explicitly evil so to speak. Even his murder of Shae can be interpreted as self-defense, since her first reaction upon seeing him was to try and kill him with a knife.
But no matter how great a character is on the page if you don’t have a wonderful actor to bring him to life, and Peter Dinklage fulfills that role so well it’s just hard to imagine anyone else as Tyrion.
A verbatim adaptation of Book!Tyrion could’ve been a harder sell for the TV series. Not only is he decidedly less attractive, with his mismatched eyes, lack of a nose (after the Battle of Blackwater Bay) and Penguin-like walk, but his thoughts and actions make him more of a darker and viler character than the usually affable version played by Dinklage.
I see the logic behind the way Tyrion was adapted. Arguments can be made about how he lost his moral ambiguity and some of his complexity as a character, but I’d say that removing the “bad bits” didn’t make him a “lesser” character. If anything, it was an improvement.
How so? For starters, for the audience it’s nice to have a morally good character they can root for, apart from the Stark kids. And it also helps Tyrion to stand out from the lion pride, so to speak. Otherwise, the Lannister family would be entirely composed of evildoers. And sure, we can admire Cersei’s ruthlessness, Jaime’s bravery and Tywin’s shrewdness, but as Stannis would say, “a good act doesn’t wash out the bad”. Jaime going back to rescue Brienne from the bear doesn’t erase the fact that he was the one who crippled Bran Stark.
In the TV show, the sibling relationship between Tyrion and Jaime soured after the former killed their father with a crossbow. In the novels, it was because of Tyrion’s former wife, Tysha.
Considering that Tysha is a character unlikely to ever appear in the screen adaptation (or in the novels themselves for all we know), it only made sense that the show runners added more meat to the relationship with Shae and mostly axed the references of Tysha, apart from a S1 scene and a couple of mentions about Tyrion been married before.
In A Storm of Swords, after helping Tyrion escape from his cell, Jaime confesses to him that Tysha was no whore, and that she had been truly in love with him. Tywin, however, wouldn’t accept a “lowborn” girl be a part of his family, thinking she was only after the gold of Casterly Rock. So he destroyed his son’s marriage in the worst possible way, by having his soldiers gang rape her and then forcing Tyrion to rape her as well.
When confronting Tywin in the privy, Tyrion demands to know where Tysha was sent. His dad then offers one of the book series most infamous lines: “Wherever whores go”.
The whole ordeal breaks Book!Tyrion. He becomes a much more embittered, somber character, haunted by his father’s words.
His journey in A Dance with Dragons is vastly different to the TV series. Instead of traveling to Essos with Varys, he joins a small cast of new characters (none of which made it to the screen adaptation), among them Griff (Jon Connington) and Young Griff (Aegon, a character I mentioned in a previous FTMD article).
The show’s writers decided to cut the fat, so to speak, and instead of introducing us to a handful of new characters, kept Varys around. Since there’s no Aegon, the Spider’s allegiance lie with Daenerys Targaryen instead. Some story elements from the novel were kept, though, such as when Tyrion gets kidnapped by Jorah in Volantis, and the attack of the Stone Men.
Connington was the one who got infected with the Greyscale after saving Book!Tyrion. It seems unlikely that he’ll recover the way Jorah did, and he’ll most likely succumb to the disease.
Yet another new character is introduced later in the novel: a dwarf woman named Penny. She and her brother were among the riders who reenacted the War of the Five Kings to entertain the guests at Joffrey’s wedding. After Cersei puts a price on Tyrion’s head, her brother is slain and she flees to Essos. Blaming Tyrion for the death of her sibling, she tries to kill him but is thwarted by Jorah.
Tyrion allows her to tag along for the ride, and they are eventually captured by slavers.
A more grotesque, morbidly obese version of Yezzan zo Qaggaz shows up here, and both dwarves, as well as Jorah, are bought by him.
Yezzan’s demise to dysentery leaves the trio joining the Second Sons sellsword company, in hopes to rejoin Daenerys.
The book’s version of the Siege of Meereen is likely to be solved in a different way than the TV adaptation, in which Dany decimated the good masters’ forces in one fell swoop. There are more pieces in the board, including Victarion Greyjoy’s fleet and Barristan Selmy, who’s still alive and kicking in this version of the story. It would certainly be interesting if Ser Barristan makes it to Westeros alive (unlike his show counterpart, who died at the hands of the Sons of the Harpy), but I think it’s likely the old knight will die during the battle.
As for Tyrion, while becoming Dany’s Hand seems like a given, I’m sensing that we’ll get a different dynamic between the two characters. Show!Tyrion is convinced by Varys that Daenerys is the best candidate for the good of the realm, but Book!Tyrion considers supporting her if he’s allowed to rape and murder Cersei as a reward. Whether or not he’s being serious about it or just fantasizing is up to you to judge.
It’s clear that Show!Tyrion still cares for his brother (as seen in “The Spoils of War”, when Jaime tried to kill Daenerys), and while he may not have a lot of love for his sister, straight up murdering her doesn’t seem to be in his wishlist. The character from the novels seems to have completely fallen out with his siblings.
Maybe serving Daenerys as Hand will help Book!Tyrion to come out from the dark place he’s currently in, wallowing in self-pity. But I’m not really certain about the approach he’ll have regarding the conquest of Westeros. All things considered, I think he’d be more inclined to go all “fire and blood” on King’s Landing than his TV counterpart. If Selmy’s still around by then, perhaps he’ll be the one urging Dany to take a less violent path so as to not be the “queen of the ashes”.
Will he tell Daenerys about Aegon? What if Archmaester Marwyn reaches Dany first? To elaborate a bit, Marwyn is an archmaester of the Citadel who, unlike Ebrose in the TV show, not only believes Sam, but immediately sets off to Meereen to inform the dragon queen of the threat beyond the Wall.
Should Dany dismiss Marwyn’s warning as a fairy tale, it’d be up to Tyrion to discuss with her what would be the best for Westeros: either focusing on the Northern threat, or the Southern one.
They could just wait for Aegon to attack King’s Landing, and then pouncing on the likely weakened victor. Maybe Dany would want to meet Aegon first, and discover if he’s really her brother’s son or a fake. Aegon being the real deal would pose a big problem to Dany, since his claim to the throne could be considered stronger. Nevertheless, he doesn’t have dragons at his disposal.
Penny’s fate is up in the air, too. If she survives the siege of Meereen, will she stick with Tyrion? Or will she meet her demise during the battle? If she makes it out alive, then maybe it’ll be at the cost of her innocence. Tyrion cares about her, and wants to protect her, but Penny isn’t made for the game of thrones and the possibilities of her becoming collateral damage are big.
His open contempt for her being so dreamy and naive makes me wonder if she’ll manage to prevent him from becoming a monster consumed by his desire for vengeance, or if he’ll give up on her. She may be absent from the TV adaptation, but her presence in the book story will most likely be important for Tyrion’s arc.
Winter may have reached the screen, but we’ll have to wait for the winds to arrive on the page.